News / Asia

Thailand Sets July 3rd Election

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva greets as he walks on the hallway of the Government House in Bangkok, May 9, 2011
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva greets as he walks on the hallway of the Government House in Bangkok, May 9, 2011
Daniel Schearf

Thailand has announced plans to hold a national election in July that many hope will bring stability to the country’s turbulent politics. The vote is expected to be a close race between Thailand’s traditional elite, represented by the ruling Democrat party of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and an opposition supported by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. 

This week Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced the dissolution of the House of Representatives, clearing the way for a July 3 nationwide election.

In a recorded message broadcast on national television, Abhisit said a return to polls could restore stability to the country’s politics.  

He says the election is a new beginning for Thailand to move forward to effectively solve problems for people and families under democratic procedures.

Despite the prime minister’s optimism, political analysts are skeptical about the prospects for healing Thailand’s deep divisions.

The opposition Puea Thai party is backed by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who the military ousted in a 2006 coup. Since then, Thailand has been rocked by protests and violence in a power struggle between a traditional elite backed by the military and Thaksin’s supporters.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, says Thaksin’s opponents have shown they are willing to go to great lengths to prevent his supporters from again holding power.

"The anti-Thaksin side, the establishment, they have tried to do all kinds of things to prevent this outcome, including a military coup, writing a new constitution, dissolving Thaksin's parties, banning the politicians of those parties, brokering the Abhisit government in the barracks," he said. "And, Abhisit government after two years in power still cannot win the hearts and minds."

Recent opinion polls give the Puea Thai party a slight lead over Abhisit’s ruling Democrats.

Last year thousands of opposition protesters known as Red Shirts occupied parts of the Thai capital for two months, demanding a new election and an end to what they said was unfair treatment of their leaders.

Abhisit ordered the military to clear the demonstration, resulting in clashes that left more than 90 people dead, most of them civilians.

Brad Adams, Asia chief for Human Rights Watch, told the Bangkok Foreign Correspondents Club last week that there has been no credible investigation into the deaths.

"It is clear that both sides still have very raw feelings about what happened last year.  Both sides are going to use what happened last year as part of their campaign," he said. "And, I do not think there’s any prospect for getting to a point of reconciliation in the next two months during the campaign period. In fact, the campaign period is going to exacerbate this problem, undoubtedly."

Red Shirt leaders involved in the protests have been charged with terrorism and insulting the monarchy, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. However no soldiers have been charged, despite evidence that rights groups say shows the military killed unarmed protesters.

Rungrawee Chalermsripinyorat, Southeast Asia analyst for the International Crisis Group, says a key problem in Thailand is political interference in the justice system, which undermines faith in the government.

"This is something that the judiciary will have to try to address and that comes the issue of justice reform in this country, that how are we going to make people trust the judiciary, the justice system in this country," she said. "That, you know, all people, whoever that violate the law, will be treated equally."

Red-Shirt protesters say the government continues to crack down on them. In recent weeks the military has shut down Red Shirt-allied community radio stations and detained Red Shirt supporters.

Thailand has a rich history of military interventions in politics, with 18 coups or attempted coups since 1932. Despite rumors that the military will again intervene to prevent a Red Shirt election victory, army officials deny that they will stage another coup.

Analyst Thitinan in Bangkok predicts that without some kind of political compromise from both sides there will be no peaceful resolution to the current conflict.  

"Many people have a vested interest in this establishment, in the established socio-political hierarchy, and it's very difficult to let that go," said Thitinan. "And, also, if we let all of that go, what comes next could be worse. So, somehow, a way in between, a compromise in between, is the best way forward. Both sides have to recognize that and reach out to the other side."

Among the Thai public, there seems to be little hope that political leaders will agree to such a compromise.

A survey this year by the non-profit Asia Foundation indicated that more than 80 percent of Thais believe that the country’s political divisions will once again lead to violence.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs